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Nassagaweya Canyon

Rattlesnake Point to Crawford Lake

Hiking the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail was one of my biggest challenges and my longest hike in one day. The scenic Nassagaweya Canyon is a canyon which connects the Rattlesnake Conservation Area to the Crawford Lake Conservation Area in Milton Ontario. The hike through the canyon is 7.2 km (one way), approximately two and a half hours (one way). This trail boosts breathtaking views along the escarpment, takes you to a reconstructed 15th century Iroquoian village, and ends around a Meromictic lake on the Crawford Conservation.

Take the 403 and exit 107 Appleby Line N/Regional Road 20, drive for approximately 16km on Appleby Line N until you see Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area (7200 Appleby Line). I paid and entrance fee of $6.75, drove down to the lower parking area and parked. It was an unusually quiet morning, the sun was already bathing the earth with her beautiful golden rays, and there was a crispness to the air. It was one of those mornings when I felt like singing “Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feeling, everything’s gonna go my way”. Indeed it was going to be a great day.

With my backpack on my back, packed with the necessities I might need for this hike, I started my journey. A quick stop at the information board for last minute  directions I must follow and I was ready. I began by walking towards the Nassagaweya Canon Lookout, with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, stone columns and wooden beams. The Bruce Side Trail runs along the escarpment edge, but I decided to follow the orange dots which run parallel to the Buffalo Crag Trail (yellow dots).

I traveled along hard packed earth, gravel and rocks until I came to the Buffalo Crag Lookout. I could see old ancient cedars on the cliff’s edge. Continuing on through a mixture of trees such as Beech, Birch, Oak, and Maple; White Pine, White Spruce and Red pine could also be seen. I continued until I came to an intersection. The Bruce trail continued to my right and the Nassagaweya walk continued along the Jack Leech-Porter Side Trail to my left.

I started walking down through a Pine tum; continually descending down into the Nassagaweya Canyon, along a boardwalk and over cold water streams, until I came to a Y-intersection. The main Bruce Trails continues from here to in both directions and passes through some wet areas. I continued to my right over a very rocky path and decided to take the Canyon Bypass Side Trail instead of climbing up a very steep and rocky section of the Bruce Trail. I kept to my left and began to climb the steep  path of the Canyon’s wall until I got to the Crawford Lake Side Trail.

I took the path to my left, came to another Y-intersection then traveled right.  I walked  past some old ruins,  large boulders and over a very rocky path. Finally I came to another intersection. On my right was the Crawford Lake Visitor’s Centre, and to my left along the gravel path, led to the famous Crawford lake. This picturesque Lake has a  750M boardwalk that takes you all around the lake. It is said that this lake is deeper than its surface area, so the lowest levels of water is hardly disturbed and there is very little oxygen at the lowest levels. There is a saying that a picture paints a thousand words, and it is true for I don’t think I can find the words to describe this scene spread out before me.

As I walked along the boardwalk, the most beautiful picture painted by God’s own hands lay before me. The lush green vegetation, the birds flying about singing ever so sweetly to my mortal ear; the peacefulness and serenity of this Meromictic lake, made me wanna shout “How Great Thou Art”. There were lots of school children exploring Crawford Lake that day, noisy little humans, but even they could not disturb my peace.  Lots of Old Eastern Cedars, and mushrooms were found around the lake as well as sculptures of animals that represent species that are at risk of being endangered. Very interesting to say the least.

After completing my walk around the lake, I headed over to the 15th Century Iroquoian Village where I got a first hand glimpse of how the Iroquois people lived long ago. The Longhouses which are named because they were longer than they were wide, have door openings at both ends but no windows. These large structures, about 300 feet in length, were made from the bark of the Elm tree and posts made from cedar supported the roofs and frame. Animal skins were seen at the doorway of these longhouses.

As I entered the I noticed a painting or carving of a turtle over the doorway. I learned that this was a symbol of the clan or families who lived there. Animals were used as symbols which represented each clan. When I stepped inside and as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, I saw more animal skins, furs, pots, pans, antlers and bones. In the middle of the house was a hearth or shallow fire pit. Several families occupied the house and for each two families there was a hearth.

The Iroquois people did not build chimneys but  a hole was made in the roof to let smoke out from the hearth. I saw molds made by posts as well. These posts molds I was told were used to hang meat near the fire for cooking , or to hang other types of foods and skins near the fire for drying. There was also a storage pit which was used to store food. In the ceiling were rows of what looked like small bones or teeth, forming some kind of decoration. I;m not sure of its significance.

After my visit to the Iroquoian Village I proceeded to the cafeteria located in the Visitor’s Centre.  There I sat and had my lunch. Half an hour later I started back on the trail to return to Rattlesnake Point. I followed the path I had taken earlier until I came to the point where the trail began its long long long ascent up out of the canyon. I walked at a brisk steady pace making  long strides and swinging my arms freely. I began to feel some tension in my shoulders and in the muscles in my legs. I stopped to catch my breath and to make some small adjustments to the shoulder straps of my backpack.

I continued uphill after my short break this time I took shorter strides, and lowered my body to the ground walking in a zigzag  motion. I felt my heart pounding in m chest and took another short break. This time I took a few deep breaths in order to slow my heart rate down a bit, and gave a really hard cough. I took a few sips of water and continued uphill. I tried to maintain a rhythm between my breathing and my strides as the climb got steeper and steeper. This was hard. I stopped to catch my breath for the third time and wished to God that I was at the top already. I continued on, this time I tried to focus on  positive thoughts instead of how exhausted I felt. Trust me this helped. After one more quick stop. few more deep breaths  a with a song in my heart, I finally reached the top of the canyon wall.

The rest of the journey was ‘easy peasy’. I walked the rest of my journey at a steady pace back to my car. This hike took me 4 hours round trip but worth every bit of it.

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